The independent counsel who investigated former Housing Secretary
Henry Cisneros contended in his final report Thursday that the Justice
Department and IRS blocked his efforts to probe possible Cisneros tax
People who worked in the Clinton administration
denied the allegations by prosecutor David M. Barrett, whose $20
million, decade-long probe was the longest ever under the
post-Watergate reform law. It eclipsed the multiyear investigations by
Ken Starr of the Clintons and Lawrence Walsh of the Iran-Contra affair.
S. Litt, one of the Justice Department officials involved, called
Barrett’s suggestions of obstruction “a scurrilous falsehood,” adding
that the report was “a fitting conclusion to one of the most
embarrassingly incompetent and wasteful episodes in the history of
American law enforcement.”
Barrett’s report details a
behind-the-scenes battle inside the government as the prosecutor sought
to assemble evidence that Cisneros may have underreported his income by
more than $300,000.
Cisneros, who was housing secretary during
the Clinton administration, pleaded guilty in 1999 to a misdemeanor of
lying to the FBI about payments to a former mistress when he was
answering questions following his nomination for the Cabinet-level
post. President Clinton eventually pardoned him.
went to the Department of Justice seeking to broaden the probe,
Attorney General Janet Reno allowed the prosecutor to look into only a
single tax year, he reported.
“Beginning in the summer of 1997,
the OIC developed, to the extent it could, evidence concerning efforts
by officials of DOJ and the IRS to contain and limit the investigation
of Cisneros’ actions,” the report stated.
According to the
report, an IRS supervisor in the San Antonio office said the Cisneros
matter had been pulled from the field office and moved to Washington
with the apparent intent to kill it.
“There seems to be no
question that Cisneros was given extra consideration and more limited
scrutiny because of who he was _ an important political appointee,”
said the report.
In strongly worded rebuttals, former officials from the Justice Department and IRS rejected Barrett’s allegations.
inaccurate statements and unfair insinuations contained in this final
report are too numerous to catalogue,” said Jo Ann Farrington, former
deputy chief of the department’s Public Integrity Section.
about Cisneros’ 1991 and 1992 tax returns were based on his apparent
failure to include some of his speaking engagement income. Allegations
relating to his 1993 return were based primarily on claimed deductions.
to the former assistant chief counsel for criminal tax matters at the
IRS, the certified public accountant who prepared Cisneros’ tax returns
had access to records of all the omitted income. In addition, the IRS
lawyer wrote in rebuttal, Cisneros’ CPA signed an affidavit taking
responsibility for providing faulty advice regarding the improper
deductions. Finally, the IRS lawyer wrote, the CPA had previously been
an informant against Cisneros and had made amateurish mistakes on
Cisneros’ tax returns “that almost invited an audit.”
report is the last chapter in the controversial history of the
independent counsel law, which Congress refused to renew. The
investigations caused serious political damage to both Republican and
Cisneros was indicted on 18 felony counts before the case was resolved with the misdemeanor plea.
materials that are now being publicly released are simply an effort to
`try’ the case that the OIC could not win in court in an adversarial
process,” wrote Cisneros attorney Barry Simon. “The only good thing
about the current OIC report is that it is the final chapter written
under an ill-conceived and dangerous statute.”
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